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article imageSomalia famine spreads, 750,000 face ‘imminent starvation’

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 5, 2011 in Environment
The UN agricultural agency on Monday said famine conditions have spread to a sixth area in Somalia and the growing food crisis in the Horn of Africa could put another 750,000 people at risk of “imminent starvation” within the next four months.
Somalia’s food crisis continues to worsen as a combination of factors are wreaking havoc on the region’s population. Poor crop production and increased food prices have led to a deteriorating purchasing power for many poor households in the region and livestock is dying by the thousands.
An August survey by the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for Somalia indicates acute malnutrition and the rate of crude mortality are prevalent in southern Somalia’s Bay Region, surpassing famine thresholds.
Nor Anshur, father of five who lost one of his children in the Bay region, said: “Hungry people are only waiting for death,” according to the Associated Press.
Calling the October-December Deyr rains (secondary season) a total failure, FSNAU added the April-June 2011 Gu rains (primary season) was a “poor performance,” and the news release said this has resulted in the region’s worst crop production in 17 years.
The famine has now impacted six areas: four regions in southern Somalia and two settlements of internally displaced people (IDPs). FSNAU notes hundreds of people are dying each day, with at least half of them being children.
The UN said the need for humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased dramatically in the last eight months, from 2.4 million to 4 million, with 3 million located in the southern part of Somalia.
Somalia’s Bay Region is considered the country’s breadbasket, producing 80 percent of its sorghum harvest, but now acute malnutrition has a grip on the region, with 58 percent of children under age five being acutely malnourished, the UN notes.
“In the current food security situation, famine conditions are expected to spread to agropastoral populations in Gedo, Hiran, Middle Shabelle and Juba regions, and the riverine populations of Juba and Gedo in the coming four months,” said Grainne Moloney, FSNAU Chief Technical Adviser, in a UN statement.
Other areas in the region, including Kenya, Djibouti and the souther part of Ethiopia, are also suffering from the drought, and are in a state of humanitarian emergency.
According to the UN, a famine declaration is based on three criteria - a crude death rate exceeding two deaths per 10,000 people per day, acute malnutrition exceeding 30 percent and a severe lack of access to food for 20 percent of a population.
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